Last full day in Amsterdam

me at the mike (thumbnail)  I’m back in the conference center (and at the microphone) for the second (and last) day of the W3C AC meeting. We’ve had one lively discussion (on the future of the Web), but most of the meeting has been pretty predictable, which shows that W3C is maturing.

Lunchtime Escape

I think I’ve been travelling too long. I took one look at the lunch that the hotel had set up and I decided I needed to eat somewhere else! It’s not that the lunch looked bad, it’s that it looked to be rich, and last night’s dinner covered my need for rich food for some time to come.

I remembered having seen an Israeli felafel/shoarma shop near the Dam tram stop (about a ten-minute walk from the meeting) last night, and decided it would do nicely, so I set out. But when I got to the Royal Palace, I found the going rather slow — the grounds were blocked off, and there was a big security presence all around the Palace. And they were laying out the red carpet.

Red Carpet: Laying out the red carpet for the Emperor of Japan.

I pushed through the crowd and eventually got to the restaurant (Benjamin Restaurant; I didn’t think it was as good as Maoz), where I found out that the security and red carpet were for the arrival of the Emperor of Japan for a state visit — for some reason, neither CNN nor USA Today had bothered to mention this, I guess because no Americans were involved and no bloodshed was expected.

Spidey: Spidey on the Fox Kids' tram  While at lunch, the Fox Kids’ Network tram drove by and I got a picture of it in the distance — click on Spidey if you’re interested.

After lunch, I headed back to the hotel; the direct route was still blocked, so I detoured around the “Oud Kirk” (Old Church). Suddenly, I discovered that I was in the Red Light District. My first clue was this sign. And a few meters on, there were a number of windows in active use. I continued walking, and about five minutes later, I was back at the Barbizon Palace, ready to continue with the meeting. Amsterdam is certainly a city of contrasts!

It’s over!

The meeting ended promptly at 5pm (much to my surprise); I went to dinner with Lorrie and Chuck Cranor of AT&T and Ari Schwartz of CDT at a restaurant whose name I didn’t think to note (not this one!). It was very unusual for Amsterdam — we had a salad, appetizers, and dinner in less than an hour! And it was tasty, too (I had swordfish). So even with a trip to Australian Homemade for ice cream, and missing a tram by seconds, I was still back in my room before 8pm. I thought about going to Boom Chicago, but decided I should pack instead — this was a good idea, since packing for the way home was decidedly non-trivial. I’ve accumulated quite a bit of stuff here in Amsterdam, most of which I want to bring home (I’m not sure about some of the paper given out at WWW9 and the meeting, though). But I got it done and even had time to watch the last half of the 1999 version of The Thomas Crown Affair.

Tomorrow morning, it’s time to go home! I’ve enjoyed Amsterdam, but I’m ready to be at home again.

Amsterdam pages: [15 May] | [17 May] | [18 May] | [19 May] | [20 May] | [21 May] | [22 May] | [23 May] | [25 May]

No more touristing, back to work!

Today, I spent the day at the W3C Advisory Committee meeting, which, of course, is the reason I’m still in Amsterdam and was able to play tourist all weekend. I did escape for a brief lunchtime walk — it was difficult to go back, since the weather had finally improved (it was dry if not exactly warm).

But the highlight of today’s meeting was the dinner at the Grand Hotel. The Grand Hotel is clearly at a very different level than the Marriott or the Barbizon Palace; the only reason it’s a five-star hotel is that they don’t ever give out more than five stars.

The dinner was held in the Council Chamber (unfortunately, the room was too dimly lit to get a picture which does it justice). I don’t know what council sat at the council table, but without microphones, I don’t know how people at one end heard the other. Late in the evening, Jean-François Abramatic (W3C Chair, seated in the “Legi Gregi” chair (and no, I don’t know who Legi Gregi was)) introduced the
Achilles and the Tortoise: Ian Jacobs and Tim Berners-Lee engaged in a Socratic dialog on the nature of URIs.explanation of metadata by Tim Berners-Lee and Ian Jacobs, which was an appropriate conclusion to the evening.

The dinner ran to five courses, with a vegetarian option as well. Dinner ran late, even by Amsterdam standards; I got back to the hotel around 11:30pm — some folks were planning to go out for more partying, but I’d had enough and went to bed to be ready for the second day of the meeting.

Rooms at the Grand: I wonder what sort of meetings get held in the "Marriage Chamber". (I wonder what kind of meetings get held in the Marriage Chamber?)

Amsterdam pages: [15 May] | [17 May] | [18 May] | [19 May] | [20 May] | [21 May] | [22 May] | [23 May] | [25 May]

Jewish Amsterdam

I spent most of Sunday exploring Jewish Amsterdam. Somehow, a Jewish community did survive the Shoah, and there are a number of Jewish cultural sites. But, of course, it is quite different from before the Shoah.

I started at the Joods Historisch Museum, which is in the “heart of the former Jewish quarter of Amsterdam”, housed in “what used to be four Ashkenazi synagogues”. (Quoted phrases are from the museum’s brochure; their website is worth visiting even if you can visit the museum in person.)

The Museum doesn’t focus on the Shoah — it doesn’t ignore it (that would be impossible), but its main goal is to show the religion, culture, and history of Jews in the Netherlands, past and present. And it does a good job; I spent well over an hour in the museum. I happened to be there while a group of Jewish students from London were being given a tour, and they were certainly paying attention the whole time. But there isn’t much emphasis on the future at the museum.

The Portuguese Synagogue, across the street, on the other hand, is a going proposition. They, too, barely survived the Shoah, but they are determined to continue as an active congregation (preserving Sephardic traditions, as contrasted with the Ashkenazi practices that most modern American and European Jews are familiar with). Their website is also worth a visit.

Pictures coming later….watch this space!

Amsterdam pages: [15 May] | [17 May] | [18 May] | [19 May] | [20 May] | [21 May] | [22 May] | [23 May] | [25 May]

Keukenhof and more

I took a lot of pictures (digital film is free, especially when using rechargeable batteries), some of which did turn out to be worth posting (and I’ll post others when I have better connectivity).

Then we returned to Amsterdam’s Centraal Station (we were supposed to go back to RAI where we started, but we decided to see if we could go downtown instead and succeeded in the attempt) and went to the Anne Frank House. There’s often a one-hour wait, but we picked a good time and got in in just a few minutes; then we spent a very sobering hour-and-a-half going through the house.

After that, it was too late to go to any other museum, so we decided to find the Red Light District. But none of our maps showed where it was very clearly, so we spent an hour or so wandering around (at times in circles) before finding it. No pictures, I’m afraid. Nothing dramatic happened, either.

Then I went to the WWW9 “thank you” reception at the official residence of the Mayor of Amsterdam, which is a very nice canal house. Here’s a picture of me in the back garden; I have more to add later.

And then dinner with some Microsoft and W3C folks; unlike other evenings when dinner ended after 10, this time we went right to midnight. I don’t think I’m going to get up as early tomorrow as I’d originally planned!

Amsterdam pages: [15 May] | [17 May] | [18 May] | [19 May] | [20 May] | [21 May] | [22 May] | [23 May] | [25 May]